Sunday, July 22, 2007
Watching Ferguson work at the wheel was really something. Here was this big, lumbering man, his clothes disheveled, his hair unkempt, his language fairly foul, his voice loud (usually grumbling about something) and he sits down as if he’s about to conduct a symphony, transforming into something of a proper and graceful person.
I was floored to see that, against the clay, his hands were actually soft and pale and delicate and tapered.
Ken paid me the highest compliment by coming to the opening of my concentration camp photographs, Among the Ashes, when it was at Image Point here in Kansas City. He and Gertrude held court that night in the main gallery; he was seated in his walker, she was standing at his side. He said the work was powerful, and that meant a lot to me. He reminded me to be careful not to drift over to the dark side of commercialism and to continue being true to myself in my work. Of course, as soon as he finished with the compliments and kind advice, he quickly turned his attention to Eddie and insulted him about something or other. Just wanted to remind us whose company we were in, I suppose, and that it would never be easy being there.
I finished the Ferguson assignment just as the irises were poking through the soil at Ken and Gertrude’s place. I was surprised one morning when he called me (booming voice: “Feinstein, is that you?”) to see if I would come by in a couple of weeks to get some pictures of him with the irises. I must say when I looked through the viewfinder to see this man, suddenly tender with his beloved Gertrude and his beloved flowers, I almost cried.
The following is adapted from the eulogy Ted Rowland gave at Ken’s memorial service:
“Ken liked to punctuate the conversation with quotations or questions. One of his favorites was, ‘Will you be asked to leave something behind?’ This wasn’t just a rhetorical question. To Ken, this was the challenge to guide each day: this was the standard everyone should be held to.
There is a temptation, with any artist’s passing, to list the collections that hold his work as physical proof that something has been left behind. With Ken, that response fails to recognize his intellect, his complexity, his curiosity, his contradictions, his energy, his insecurities, his passions. Ken changed what we saw; he changed how we saw it; he changed us.”